Dispatches from #NETmundial2014: A few random thoughts after the Internet World Cup
I write these lines from my hotel room at Sao Paulo, Brazil. NETmundial, the so-called Gloval Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, has ended yesterday, and it doesn't seem to me that the future of Internet Governance is any clearer now than it was the week before.
A lot has been written about the discussions, about the facts and the figures and the dry technical discussions that happened during the last days. (I actually wrote a couple of things for Global Voices here). However, I'd like to take a moment and just write down a few things that are ruminating in my head and that will become stale if I don't put them somewhere:
1) Women representation: There were a few of the brightest, more talented women I've ever met, speaking and working hard there at NETmundial. From Nnenna Nwakanma, who delivered a beautifully articulate speech that encompassed, clean and strong, the civil society position on the issues at hand, to Renata Avila, whose hard work made possible the incredible event that was ArenaNETmundial, where people gathered in a more open, more welcoming space to engage and exchange opinions outside and in paralel to the meeting: the overwhelming majority of intelligent, well-informed conversations I had outside from the meeting, in the hallways and at lunch, were with awesome bright women from all over the world. However, the panels, the mics, and the screens did not reflect this: the ratio was 4:1, with several panels composed only by men. Bright, amazing men? Yes, of course. But there was no shortage of women complying with those same requirements on the floor.
2) I do feel that the text that was approved under the name of Sao Paulo Multistakeholder Statement falls way short in the field of freedom of speech. I somehow understand that for some people -maybe those who aren't seeing their freedom of speech immediatly threatened- just a declaration that “freedom of speech must be respected” might sound like enough. But it is not. As an absolute minimum, it must be undisputably clear that any measures taken to restrict freedom of speech must be taken by a judicial authority and after a due procedure, and that they must comply with the three requisites that the international human rights framework has consecrated: legality, legitimacy and necessity. This is not something that should even be discussed; it is a human rights standard, and it needs to be a principle for the Web.
I missed parts of the discussion, because my time was divided between the main venue and the Arena, but I still can't wrap up my mind on how and why the word “express” disappeared from the phrase “freedom to hold and express opinions” in the first paragraph of the outcome document.
3) It was assumed that the main issue to be considered was massive surveillance, the reason that compelled president Roussef to organize the meeting in the first place. However, it is clear that the language of the Statement is lukewarm to say the least (“Procedures, practices and legislation regarding the surveillance of communications, their interception and collection of personal data, including mass surveillance, interception and collection, should be reviewed...”, the document reads). While some people has expressed their satisfaction that the text even made it to the final document (as with the bit on “permissionless innovation”), I do believe that with all the hype that had been building up, the paragraph on surveillance ended up being much ado about nothing.
While the meeting was closing at the Hyatt, at the Arena, Jacob Appelbaum recommended to encrypt every single communication, until the costs of spying every single citizen of the world become just unbearable for governments. I find myself having to agree.